In November, the New England Patriots destroyed the Colts 42-20 in Indianapolis.
A key to the domination surprisingly wasn’t the Patriots’s franchise quarterback Tom Brady, but their running game.
The Patriots ran for 246 yards, spearheaded by a 201-yard, four-touchdown performance by tailback Jonas Gray, a relative unknown at the time.
“They are physically abusing the front seven of the Colts defense,” said Patriots radio analyst Scott Zolak late in that game. “They are pushing people around.”
Don’t expect that to happen again.
The Colts’s run defense is much better now.
A week after that game, talented run-stuffing defensive tackle Arthur Jones (the brother of UFC fighter Jon Jones and Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones) returned from the injury list, and the Colts have stopped the run well ever since.
“Having a healthy Art Jones, makes our defense that much better,” said Colts defensive end Cory Redding. “He commands double teams. Having him, Art, in the lineup is huge for us.”
What also could help the Colts might be the absence of the Patriots starting center, Bryan Stork, who will miss the game with a knee injury.
So expect a much heavier dose of Brady and the’ passing attack in this game. And that is never a bad thing.
And considering Indianapolis is banged up at cornerback, this is probably a good way to go. Both of the Colts’s starting corners, Vontae Davis (knee) and Greg Toler (groin), were limited in practice all week, and are listed as “questionable” on the injury report. They are expected to play, but neither is 100 percent.
It remains to be seen how the Colts are going to cover dominating tight end Rob Gronkowski. In the first meeting, “Gronk” had a 26-yard touchdown reception, breaking six tackles on the play.
The Colts really don’t have a good matchup for Gronkowski. Who does?
But conversely, the Patriots could have major issues with Colts tight ends, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, one of the better combos in the league.
Potentially a big problem for the Colts in this game is the lack of a dominant pass rusher, never a good thing when you face Brady. Their best pass rusher, Robert Mathis, is on injured reserve with a torn Achilles tendon. Man, could they use him for this game! If you give Brady too much time to throw, he generally will pick you apart.
This is one of the more talented Patriots rosters in years, on both sides of the ball.
This game shouldn’t be as lopsided as the first meeting, but it’s hard seeing Brady being denied a chance at a fourth Super Bowl title, especially playing at home, where he rarely loses.